Norwegian search and rescue crews were pressed into action once again this week after a group of 16 people ran into trouble while hiking over the popular mountain ridge known as Besseggen, north of Fagernes. This time, though, the group had been organized by Norway’s own mountain trekking association DNT.
Emergency officials have worried this summer about the frequent calls for help they’ve had from poorly equipped tourists who set off on ambitious hikes in the Norwegian mountains. Many are foreigners, and prove to be unprepared for the distance and difficulty involved. The capacity of emergency response crews is under strain.
This week’s latest emergency proved that local experts can get into trouble, too. Newspaper Varden reported that a group led by experienced mountain trekkers from local DNT chapters in Drammen and Telemark had to call for help on Wednesday. They had set off earlier this week with a group including several physically handicapped individuals. The trek was supposed to last three days, and be specially suited for the impaired.
DNT officials have arranged such treks, called Klart det går (roughly translated, “Of course we can go”), for several years and organizers told local newspaper Varden that this week’s trip had been planned for a long time. Those taking part were all from Drammen and Telemark.
On Wednesday night, however, one of the group’s tents was destroyed in stormy weather and several of the participants were already exhausted. “Our experienced tour leaders decided to call for help at such an early phase, so there would be no danger,” Simon Torgersen, leader of DNT Drammen og Omegn, told Varden. “All risk evaluations and plans around the trek were carried out well.”
More problems arose, though, when stormy weather with strong winds prevented a rescue helicopter that had been sent from the Rygge airport south of Moss from hovering over the steep mountain area and picking them all up. It was also impossible to land on Besseggen.
That meant that all 16 people had to spend the night up on the ridge after all, and wait for another rescue attempt Thursday morning. It was successful and the group was safely brought down to DNT’s Gjendesheim lodge at the base of the mountain.
Torgersen stressed that the same problems could also have been encountered by people who weren’t physically impaired, and he claimed the situation was never considered to be dramatic.
“They were a bit cold when we got them down, but in relatively good shape,” Atle B von Obstfelder of the local police operations central told state broadcaster NRK. Police reported that six of the 16 people in the group suffered from cerebral palsy and needed assistance. An air ambulance had also managed to drop down some extra equipment to them Wednesday night.